In May 2008, the American University in Washington DC hosted a workshop that brought together a global network of scholars, applied practitioners, and community activists who are all concerned about the ways in which nature is being commodified and appropriated in the context of biodiversity conservation. The title of this workshop was: Problematizing Neoliberal Biodiversity Conservation: Displaced and Disobedient Knowledge.

Workshop participants explored power relationships and censorship in current biodiversity conservation practice. Participants noted that there is significant lack of freedom for the exchange and dissemination of information that challenges the ways in which biodiversity conservation is currently imagined and implemented. The workshop summary report presents:

  • a focus on the roles that funding bodies, Big International Non-Governmental Organisations (BINGOS) and academic institutions play in framing conservation discourse and practice, - from specific interventions to drafting conservation related legislation.
  • an analysis of how conservation landscapes can be used to expand state control over marginal rural communities or to keep immigrants out of state controlled spaces.
  • critical reflections on conservation as part of a global ‘space making’ project that increasingly allows extractive industries to exploit resources (minerals, oil…) in protected areas for new cycles of capitalist accumulation and expansion.
  • accounts of workshop participants who have experienced silencing and censorship when they spoke of the way in which conservation projects undermine and displace local communities and livelihoods.
  • ideas on how to build on the unique skills and perspectives of network members and a wider community of practice to explore solutions to environmental problems that are holistic, inclusive, equitable, and ecologically sound.

See IIED web site for workshop summary (PDF 182KB)

Or the full document